Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix last Sunday to stay mathematically alive for a Sprint Cup title.
Kevin Harvick’s win last week at Phoenix was his fourth of the season, just one off his Sprint Cup career high, set in 2006. It also kept him in championship contention, albeit as a longshot, entering Sunday’s season finale at Homestead (3 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN).
Harvick has the best career numbers at Homestead among the three drivers still in championship contention (Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth). His 7.9 average finish at the track is the second-best mark there all-time among drivers with multiple starts, trailing only Carl Edwards.
To compare, championship leader Jimmie Johnson has a 15.3 career average finish at the track, and Matt Kenseth has a 17.6.
A title seems out of reach for Harvick, as Johnson needs to finish 32nd or better to mathematically eliminate Harvick. But a top-five points finish seems like a safe bet, given that Harvick has a 46-point cushion over sixth place entering the weekend.
Sunday's race could very well be Mark Martin’s final Sprint Cup Series race. Martin, despite 40 Cup Series wins and five runner-up finishes in points, never won a Cup championship. Harvick is quickly joining him on the list of the most-accomplished drivers to never win a title.
Most Top-5 Finishes in Points
Drivers to Never Win Title
If Harvick finishes in the top five in points, it would be the sixth time in his career that he has done so, including three times in the past four seasons after finishing third in both 2010 and 2011. He would become the fourth driver in Cup Series history, dating back to 1949, to finish in the top five in points at least six times without ever winning a title.
What the other three have done that Harvick has yet to do is finish runner-up in points. However, Harvick could change that by gaining at least seven points on Kenseth at Homestead.
Harvick has some big wins on his resume. Besides being a two-time Nationwide Series champion, he also won the 2003 Brickyard 400 and the 2007 Daytona 500 in a thrilling side-by-side finish with Mark Martin.
Most NASCAR Cup Series Wins
Drivers to Never Win Title
Overall, Harvick has 23 wins in his Sprint Cup Series career, making him one of eight drivers to win that many Cup races without ever having won a championship. Among the other drivers on the list are Martin once again, and Kyle Busch, who is fourth in points this season but mathematically eliminated from title contention.
What makes Harvick’s performance noteworthy this season is he and his team have been doing it with the knowledge that this is Harvick’s final season with Richard Childress Racing, as he made the decision to move to Stewart-Haas Racing starting in 2014.
Harvick will then try to replicate Kenseth’s performance this season, his first with Joe Gibbs Racing. But history won’t be on his side, as only one driver in the modern era (since 1972) has won a championship in his first season with a team: Darrell Waltrip in 1981 driving for Junior Johnson.